Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

WNBA 'changed everything' for girls hoops

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset, N.Y., all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

"I didn't have that," said Bird, who is in her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. "There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four.

"The WNBA changed everything," said Bird who starred at UConn. "It started in 1997, and I graduated from high school in 1998. My high school class was the first one to know during the college recruiting process to know there was the option to play professional basketball, to know that the WNBA was there and to know I better pick a school that is going to help me get to the next level. It changed everything."

Yes, it did. And when the WNBA opened its 20th season this weekend, that's its most important legacy.

Nineteen years into the league, and there has been a lot of talk about what the league has yet to do in terms of raising attendance and establishing itself as more than just a niche sport. Yet, the very fact that the league has been around for two decades providing a positive role model for all girls, not just aspiring pro players, is something with an importance that is difficult to overstate.

"Achievement and performance in America, it's hard to top that right," said Mary Joe Kane of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. "For your girls to see that, it sends a very powerful message."

Bird's new teammate, Breanna Stewart whom the Storm took out of Connecticut with the No. 1 overall pick in May, cannot remember a time when a pro women's league didn't exist. And that is exactly what the league's founders were hoping 20 years ago.

Before the WNBA, there had been at least 15 attempts to start a women's professional sports league, beginning in the 1970s, according to Val Ackerman, the WNBA's commissioner for its first eight seasons.

"We were well aware that this had been a graveyard, littered with the tombstones of women's pro leagues that had failed," Ackerman said. "So we were determined to be the league that made it this time. We knew longevity was going to be a goal."

Bird said it's great that for teammates like Stewart that this is the only world they have ever known. "And," Bird said, "that's having an impact ... because the talent level just gets better and better." — Newsday (TNS)

Comments
Calvary Christian baseball team opens title defense with heavy hearts

Calvary Christian baseball team opens title defense with heavy hearts

CLEARWATER — Braden Halladay admits there will be some emotions when he takes the mound Friday for his first start of the season. How can there not be?His father, Roy, won't be watching.Roy Halladay, one of the best Major League Baseball pitche...
Updated: 2 hours ago
U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it, too.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Girls basketball region finals preview

Girls basketball region finals preview

All games at 7 p.m. FridayClass 8ANaples Gulf Coast (25-2) at Tampa Bay Tech (25-3): The Titans are coming off a 62-44 win over Countryside. They are clearly playing some good basketball at the right time. Junior Jalyn Spurlin scored 12 poi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Supercross brings athletes — not just motorcycle riders — to Tampa

Supercross brings athletes — not just motorcycle riders — to Tampa

TAMPA — When breaking down the competitive skill in Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship Series event at Raymond James Stadium, you won’t find an analysis of 40-yard dash times, bench-press weights or vertical-leap measurements...
Published: 02/22/18
What if the Rays actually have a good plan?

What if the Rays actually have a good plan?

PORT CHARLOTTE — Going against popular opinion, here's an odd thought to ponder:What if the Rays actually know what they're doing?The deal agreed to Wednesday afternoon with veteran outfielder Carlos Gomez — one year for a hefty-for-them ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

This isn't the first time Brentson Buckner has wanted to get closer to the Bucs defensive line.As a defensive tackle for the Panthers, Buckner's team went 7-9 in 2002, the inaugural season for the NFC South.Tampa Bay won the division that year, and w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

PORT CHARLOTTE — It was another morning after at Charlotte Sports Park and Rays Bargain Clearance Barn.  This time it's Steven Souza Jr., man of a thousand faces. He gone.What else is new at the incredible shrinking baseball team?It's spri...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Dick Vitale to Rays owner Stu Sternberg: Sell the team

Dick Vitale to Rays owner Stu Sternberg: Sell the team

PORT CHARLOTTE – Dick Vitale, the Rays' most visible and, as of late, vocal fan, took to Twitter and the 620-AM airwaves Wednesday morning and later in the day in a phone call to the Tampa Bay Times to blast his local baseball team.Vitale, ESPN...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Thursday’s viewing guide

Winter Olympics: Thursday’s viewing guide

TV today6:05 a.m.-5 a.m. Friday NBCSNCurling (M) — Semifinal, United States vs. Canada (LIVE)Short-track speed skating — Finals, men's 500m, women's 1,000m, men's 5,000m relayBiathlon (W) — 4x6k relay finalCurling (M) — Semifi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons for the move.With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net and a rele...
Updated: 7 hours ago